Hollywood Theatre – Portland Ore

(c) LGC Leo G Campbell 6/28/2021

Hollywood Theatre – Portland Ore

Hollywood Theatre – Portland Ore

When I was 10 years old (1955) it was a mere 8 blocks west, from my house, to what’s called the Portland “Hollywood District”.

That’s based on the Hollywood Theatre being built there, on Sandy Road, in 1926.

My research shows that Sandy Road was the last part of the Oregon Trail- of pioneer days (most Portlanders don’t know this). Some pioneers on the Trail kept diaries… but, as an aged pioneer Portlander put it. “We were so damn glad to just get here… no time, fer a damn diary. You try- walking 2,000 miles.” Ah well.

One diary I studied at the Geneology Forum Of Oregon’s library, was self-published in book form, by the later pioneer’s family: Farmers who left St Louis carried gold. They planned to buy land when they got to the Willamette Valley.

By the time they got to the small Mount Hood town of Sandy, the Oregon Trail paused… farmers re-counted their gold, cleaned up the wagons, and most went on to Oregon City… and the ‘sharpers’ real estate agents awaited them there… with inflated farm land prices.

Some of the other farmers – turned their wagons north, down the twisting Sandy River, off of Mount Hood, and ended up at Troutdale, a shallow river fording spot. They drove their wagons across the river, up the sandy bank. Then headed due west toward Portland- just 15 miles away. It was the best place to buy the best farmland, at the best lowest prices.

That last part of the Oregon Trail… became Sandy Road. It didn’t stop until it was in the heart of downtown Stumptown (Portland). Near the present Burnside Bridge.

In 1905, when the Lewis & Clark Exposition- opened up Portland- as a major city, Sandy Road began getting paved at river’s edge… going due east into still-forested East Portland…

By 1926, Sandy Road was paved all the way east to NE 42nd Avenue. So the Hollywood Theatre, and a big Fred Meyer (later Krogers) retail store, were built in 1926, on both sides of the now-called Sandy Boulevard. Fred Meyer’s big store on the north side, Hollywood Theatre on the south side.

Fred Meyer built his store parking lot, on his store’s huge roof. Ran grocery specials weekly… from 1926 to at least World War II… “buy 3 cans of “My-Te-Fine” green beans, and get 2 free tickets to a movie at the Hollywood Theatre”.

And, then… I came along… in 1955. Just in time for old cowboy western movies, and kiddie cartoons… us kids showed up, every Saturday at 12 noon, each paid $0.25 (a quarter) and got in the theatre seats to be entertained- all afternoon long. The Theatre ceiling was very high, and lighted wrought iron chandeliers hung down, on black chains…

The huge theatre curtain slowly swept back, and a young man in a suit, ran up on stage: “Kids, I’m Bobby with Armor Star Franks (Bobby had a package of Armor Star Franks in each hand).”

“Now, who wants some Armor Star Franks ?” And Bobby would gently lob both packages- into our kiddie audience. Bobby would do an hour onstage, announcing contests- picking out kids to come up onstage, do something kinda dumb, win a prize… often a package of Armor Star Franks.

Then a Roy Rogers color movie was played… with Roy, Dale Evans, palomino horse Trigger, and dog… Roy was a credible “duded up” fancy cowboy… dubbed “King of the Cowboys”. Always fun, kiddie Western movies. A Hopalong Cassidy movie followed. Then, perhaps a cowboy Tom Mix movie.

Fifty years later, I looked Roy Rogers up on Wikipedia. He began his career as a New York nightclub singer, dressed in tan suit, white shirt, and narrow black necktie. No cowboy…. He met Dale Evans on a Chicago radio show.

Exactly the same for Willie Nelson- a short-haired, clean-cut nightclub singer, in gray suit, white shirt, skinny black necktie… went on to be a disk jockey for KVAN Country AM Radio station in Vancouver, Washington – just across the Columbia River from Portland…

Bobby, the young man of Armor Star fame, later went on to the real Hollywood- was hired by Walt Disney to be the adult “guardian” for the new “The Mickey Mouse Musketeers” TV show. Bobby died that year in a car crash, so Disney hired James Dodd to be, “Jimmy”- the show adult guardian and entertainer (Jimmy was in the 1942 John Wayne movie, “The Flying Tigers” as a fighter pilot).

True stuff.

Back to being 10 years old again… I would go out the exit at the Hollywood Theatre at 5 pm – into blinding white summer light – take my package of Armor Star Franks, and walk home.


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